The Arizona Republic details Giroux's long arrest history: drug possession, theft, assaulting police officers, violating probation. Seven and a half years in prison. Seven felony convictions. His mugshots add some extra dimensions to the story, especially the "SKIN HEAD" tattoo over his eyebrows. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, reports:
A retired Mesa Police detective who once infiltrated local skinhead groups told Hatewatch that he knew Giroux from previous encounters, and that Giroux was a member of Hammerskin Nation, a notoriously violent racist skinhead group, and an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood, a national prison gang with a long list of murders to its credit. “He’s a violent guy,” said the former detective, who knew Giroux as a young skinhead in the 1990s and early 2000s. “I think his time in prison contributed to that.”
It's people like Giroux who worry federal law-enforcement officials. Eric Holder told CBS in January that it was lone-wolf figures who kept him up at night. According to a tally by New America last year, right-wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States since 9/11, compared to 21 fatalities for Islamic terrorists stateside over the same period. SPLC's numbers find that while the number of hate groups in the U.S. expanded quickly after Barack Obama's election, it has since shrunk, with the people who were drawn to them splintering away from organizations but remaining tied to the ideologies.
In June 2014, the Justice Department revived a task force on domestic terrorism created after the Oklahoma City bombing but mothballed in the wake of September 11. Giroux seems like just the sort of person federal officials would have been keeping an eye on.
And yet nothing about what happened Wednesday seems to have had to do with this, except insofar as hate groups speak to the overwhelming sense of rage that many shooters exhibit.
A forthcoming study focuses on the big risk of violence: the intersection of young to middle-aged men with serious anger issues and access to guns. (How Giroux got a firearm is unclear; as a felon, he would not be able to buy one legally, though many felons access guns without great trouble.) These men are clearly not thinking quite right—no one who opens fire on other human beings like this is—yet they've also not been diagnosed with mental illness, and may not fit into any diagnosis. Would Giroux have been similarly filled with rage if he hadn't been involved with skinhead groups? Or was his membership there just a channel for already existing rage?
The shooting of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in February provides a different angle on the same issue. Initially, reports suggested it might have been a straightforward hate crime against Muslims. Then there were suggestions it was a dispute about a parking space. Jonathan Katz's reporting on the case since shows that neither explanation really captures what happened, and that finding a single, definitive reason is likely impossible and irrelevant. Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself into the police after the crime, had vocal objections to religion. He was clearly an angry man, easily provoked and obsessed with parking spaces at his apartment complex. And he had access to guns.